Stevia: An Alternative for Sugar
Everyone has heard of the dangers of consuming too much sugar. It can not only raise your blood sugar to unhealthy levels but it can cause inflammation as well as lowering your immune system’s ability to function properly. Artificial sweeteners may also be hazardous to your health. Many people report symptoms such as migraines, neurological issues, nausea, abdominal pain, insomnia and depression when consuming artificial sweeteners. So what’s a person to do when you want something sweet but you don’t want a negative effect on your health? Many people are turning to Stevia.
What is Stevia?
Stevia is a plant that originates in Paraguay and Brazil and has been used for centuries in those countries to sweeten foods of all kinds. It has become increasingly popular as a sugar substitute in America due to the fact that it is estimated to be 200 times sweeter than sugar and it contains no calories. While the FDA hasn’t put its stamp of approval on Stevia itself yet, the compound Rebaudioside A, which is one sweet component of stevia, has been approved and can be found now in mainstream processed foods under the name Truvia. Stevia can be found in health food stores in its more natural form as a nutritional supplement. It comes in stand-alone granules and liquids.
In its countries of origin it was also used to treat colic, stomach issues and even burns. It’s being researched here for possible health benefits here in America as well. It received a “grade B for efficacy” from the Natural Standard Research Corporation for its effect on lowering high blood pressure. Stevia is also being studied for its effect on Type 2 Diabetes however more research is needed.
Proceed with Caution
As a diet aide Stevia also shows promise. Studies in rats showed that when they consumed artificial sweeteners the rats tended to over compensate by eating more calories. The exact opposite of what you want when dieting. However there is no evidence that Stevia causes the same reaction. A study on humans, both lean and obese, showed their blood sugar was lower and insulin levels healthier after a meal sweetened with Stevia compared to one sweetened with sugar or aspartame. The only caution that has been stated so far is due to its effect of lowering blood pressure. Those who are on blood pressure medication are told to be mindful if consuming Stevia as it may lower their blood pressure more than recommended.
All in all not only is the research promising but Stevia tastes great and is widely available now. Give it a try and see if you can replace some of the unhealthy sugar in your diet with this delightful herb!